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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  July 15, 2010 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first tonight, our conversation with former u.s. senator sam nunn and the increasing tension caused by iran's nuclear ambitions. he serves as the co-chair of the nuclear threat initiative. recently the u.n. and u.s. announced a new round of sanctions against iran for failing to comply with previous restrictions. also, levar burton is here. he is back with a new film called "the jensen project," premiering friday night on nbc. sam nunn and actor lavar burton, coming up right now. -- sam nunn and actor levar burton, coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james.
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>> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is happy to help tavis improve of financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: sam nunn is a former u.s. senator from georgia who serves as the co-chair and c.e.o. of the nuclear threat initiative, a nonprofit designed to reduce the threats from nuclear weapons. senator nunn, could have you on the program. >> thank you, tavis.
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tavis: what is the threat these days and how serious is it? >> we have a lot of threats. in my view, the number one threat is a group of people who could figure out how to make a bomb, nuclear weapon, getting enough nuclear material to make that weapon, and then using that to basically terrorize the country and the world by exploiting that weapon, which could take out a large portion of the city, even if it is a crude weapon. it would likely come in by the back of a truck, and the group perpetrating such an act would not have a return address. deterrence or the threat to retaliate, particularly in the case of people willing to give their own lives in suicide, it would not deter or prevent this from happening. the bottom line is the threat has fundamentally changed since the cold war. we have to understand the threat has changed.
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the russians have to understand it as well as other countries that have nuclear weapons, and we have to have a high degree of cooperation to prevent this from happening. the message is the threat has changed, and that is coming from george shultz, kissinger, and others who have been through the cold war and believe in strong national security, but believe we have to respond to the facts that we are confronted with. tavis: the threat has changed dramatically, but is a greater than in the cold war? >> it is a different kind of threat. during the cold war, we had the threat of all-out war, armageddon, the exchange of thousands of nuclear weapons if we got into a war with the soviet union. it could have gone from a conflict in europe or elsewhere that escalated. because of that, the realization on both sides, we had a
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horrible type of danger, but more stability. today, we don't have that kind of threat of all-out war unless it is an accident or miscalculation. we have to deal with that contingency, but we have a lot less stability because we have more danger of a limited nuclear attack that could have an extreme set of consequences, not just consequences to human beings and property, but most important, also, even our ability to maintain some semblance of economic stability in the world. it would shake the confidence of the world. we would think there was not only one weapon that could explode, but whoever did it would probably claimed they had another weapon, whether they did not. the stabilization would be the order of the day. tavis: you say things like "whoever" and may not have a return address. it makes me think you want to suggest this threat is
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potentially coming from anywhere, from any group of people, rather than some contained a list of people we are looking at. is that what you are suggesting? >> i think al qaeda is at the top of everybody's list because their leaders have made it plain they would like to get nuclear material and they would not hesitate to use it. but there are other groups out there, the group in tokyo to carry out the chemical attacks in 1995, they are trying to start a war between japan and the u.s. the fbi and cia did not even know about them at that time. when i was in the senate, which conducted an investigation of that. it is not limited to al qaeda, but they are at the top of the list. we have to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. we have to work with the russians and other countries, including former adversaries, to make sure we keep that material out of the hands of terrorists.
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we have to prevent proliferation, deal with the problems of iran and north korea, because that's it's a terrible example. all of these things require cooperation. at the bottom line is we cannot protect america without taking a lot of steps in this regard, and we cannot take those steps without cooperation. in my view, we won't get the cooperation unless we basically make it clear to the world that the nonpolar for recent treaty commitments to step by step get rid of nuclear weapons -- that the non-proliferation treaty commitments to step-by-step get rid of nuclear weapons is our priority. we are moving in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. tavis: what about the notion that many believe then, the notion of mutual deterrent, they have it and we have it and we are better off because we are mutually deterred? >> i don't t case of terrorists
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or certain countries. i think it is likely to work with larger countries because they know if they did use a nuclear weapon that will be destroyed -- that they will be destroyed. we have 95% of all the weapons in the world, and most of the materials are between the u.s. and russia. we have basically been riding a tiger for a long time and it is getting bigger and we're trying to figure out how to dismount together, trying to figure out how not to get eaten up as we dismount. all of those things mean it is difficult, but it will be step by step. we have a mutual stake working together with the nuclear materials. there are many things the u.s. and russia should be working together on, and for that matter bring china, great britain, france into the loop as we move along, but the u.s. and russia have to lead the way. that is why the start treaty that was negotiated and signed by the president and the
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president of russia, pending before the senate, that is enormously important. it reduces nuclear weapons but it is the backbone and foundation of the confidence we need to work with the russians on things like verification and things like confidence-building. the treaty in and of itself is modest in terms of reducing weapons but it has enormous psychological importance. for people to get involved, they should study the start treaty, the new start treaty. if they have strong feelings about it, let their senators know about it. that is a matter that is pending now. tavis: what are the politics, as you see them, on this issue in the senate? >> i think the senate foreign relations committee, under the leadership of john kerry and senator lugar working together, they will work on that together. the armed services committee is
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going to have their own set of hearings. i believe the nuclear weapons lab directors are testifying this week. the intelligence community it is testifying on our ability to verify. all of those things are important, but you have to get two-thirds of the senate to vote for it. that is a steep hill. at all to be bipartisan, but who knows where the politics are now -- it ought to be bipartisan, but who knows where the politics are now. i believe we need to work with the russians to reduce these dangers and is in the best interests of the united states. tavis: it may end up that iran is the most sanctioned it nation in the world, specifically around this issue, yet for many, it does not seem like the threat from iran has lessened. what do you make of that? >> they have embarked on a program that we think has a high danger of iranians ending up
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with nuclear weapons. that happened in north korea already. both of these are grave dangers. in the case of iran, if they end up with nuclear weapons, and we don't think they have them yet, they will be the only country in the middle east. there will be other countries with nuclear weapons. we believe and george shultz and henry kissinger and others have said this, we believe we are entering the precipitous of a new era of great danger -- we are entering the prejudice of a new era of great danger. the whole world has a stake in this. the iranians have breached their obligations under the nom poplar friedgen treaty. the treaty as a sacred document. if you are not part of the non- proliferation agreement, you should not sign it. if you are under the treaty, you have to abide by it. the united states has a real stake and so does the globe in forcing international law.
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we have to work together and put it tough, meaningful sanctions on the iranians until they change their direction. we're not saying the iranians cannot have nuclear power. they have the right to nuclear power. but we have to understand that in the long run, every country, every entity or business that produces highly enriched uranium or low enriched uranium or reprocesses plutonium has to be under international safeguards and we'll have to understand that protecting against the spread of the material for a nuclear weapon is a global issue and the whole world has a stake in that. tavis: how do you respond to countries, iran, north korea, anyby else, you ask why the u.s. and russia have access to nuclear weapons? and until and unless they get
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rid of theirs, if we have the capacity ensigns to build our own, why should the u.s. and russia be the only ones with access to nuclear capacity? >> the nonpareil for rationed treaty which was signed in 1968, -- the non-proliferation treaty which was signed in 1968 has three pillars. one is the weapons states will step by step get rid of their weapons. that is the u.s. and other countries that had weapons at that time. second, the countries that signed the treaty that did not have weapons will not develop them, including iran and north korea. third, every country has the right to civil nuclear power. there are three legs on that stole and we'll have to enforce and live up to the obligations of that. -- there are three legs on that stool and we all have to enforce and live up to the obligations of that. you cannot tell people to stop smoking law you are chain-
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smoking yourself, so this all goes together. everybody has to live up to their obligations. tavis: former senator sam nunn, good to have you on the program. up next, actor levar burton. stay with us. pleased to welcome levar burton back to the program. the former "roots" and " star is back on the program. -- the former "roots star amd "star trek" is back on the program. his new film is "the jensen project." >> if the group develops a new vaccine given to the world health they get the magazine covers. >> status report?
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>> kendrick is the head of the statistical engineering department. >> so far we have 27 cases. >> is worse than we thought. -- it is worse than we thought. >> hi and bye. i have to go. welcome back to jensen. tavis: i rarely have questions about trailers, but i have to ask, why does the brother have to be secured? >> -- have to be security? >> the jensen project, they don't have any idea at about the finer aspects of the testing that is very valuable intellectual property. tavis: tell me more about "the jensen project."
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>> it is in upper new york city, and they come up with solutions, intellectual property solutions to the world problems, and then they leak them out was thickly into the world, taking no credit. they have unlimited funding, and most of the technology was invented on their property. every week, with the series, there is some nefarious group trying to coopt the ideas and use it to the rhone and. -- and use it to their own end. he is the head of acoustical and atomic technology. he is not just the chief of security, he has two jobs. tavis: he is working like a jamaican. >> yah, mon! tavis: i thought she was trying to diss you?
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>> no, just telling it like it is. tavis: how important for you, over the course of your career, to make choices in terms of roles that are in powering? it is that a beautiful thing, this is different. your head of security and one of the geniuses in the jensen project. how important to pick these kind of roles? >> it is of paramount importance. let me rephrase, i have been very blessed throughout the course of my career being given opportunities to be that selective, but it has become more than have it. it is my point of view. this is how i want to represent him at any, the roles that i play as an actor -- how i want to represent humanity, the roles that play as an actor. i want to bring that humanity to
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the worked. tavis: talk about being selective, i was shocked that you were acting in this, because you, i assume by choice, decided to not act for a while. you have been directing, producing, but it has been a while since we have seen you on the screen acting. >> since "star trek: the next generation," really. i did a movie of the wheat for a friend of mine who is my business partner. -- i did a movie of the week for a friend of mine who was my business partner and they did a small cameo, but this is really my return to television. tavis: why not act for that time? >> when i was on "star trek" and there was such a great support system for an actor, patrick stewart, and then i stepped
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over, the producer was always generous supporting if you wanted to take that step. whether you got a second chance was up to you. the incubator was valuable to me. when the series ended, in order to convince people that directing is what i took seriously, i only directed and produced. it is a business based on perception. if they perceive you just being a dilettante, and rightly so, they have no reason to take you seriously. tavis: we are about to go on hiatus to rest up and get our mojo back, and i was literally going through the rundown of things we wanted to rerun. if i had not seen this on the list, i would ask for to be on there. fortunately, it was already on the list. but patrick stewart was on here some months ago. i had the most delightful -- he
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is a bright guy, and such a humanist. >> i love that man. when i first met patrick, i said you are as cute -- you are as cool as cucumber soup. tavis: that is a big complement coming from levar burton. i have no number of years, but you have been in this business -- i have no new a number of years, but you have been in this business 30 years. the point i love re-stating it is levar burton was a student at usc film school. a >> drama school. tavis: he had an opportunity for an audition. at the very first time in his life that he ever audition for any thing, he got the starring role of kunta kinte in the class at "roots." -- and the classic "roots."
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his first role as a life changing, life altering, life- defining role for many of us. the role of kunta kinte in "roots." when it starts out that way, how has this three-decade journey ben? more, less? >> it is better than i anticipated turning out. tavis: why? i could have argued in my mind -- >> that was the peak. tavis: that it would have all been downhill. >> that would have been a way of looking at it. it "roots" happened when i was 19. i had great guidance, great family foundation. delores robinson, i second mom stepped in, and really helped keep me around it. -- my second mom stepped in and really helped keep me around it. i thought if i never did
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anything else, i did something significant. that freed me. i had "star trek: the next generation," one of the most successful series at in the history of television, known for its storytelling, the last episode of "star trek," the last year it was on, we were nominated for prime time emmy. for all the science fiction on the screen now, we were syndicated science fiction. that is the trifecta. tavis: i don't want to put you on the spot, but i am hearing rumors after not being around for a couple of years about "reading rainbow." >> i loved the "reading rainbow" brand. we are now engaged in an effort to repair that. that will give us the freedom to relaunch the brand. tavis: i love this hollywood-
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speak, repairing the brand. >> we actively aer. tavis: i assume that you must hear from parents all the time ms. "reading rainbow." >> now they are having their own children. i hear from them all the time. i'm fairly active on twitter. tavis: you have 1.5 million followers? >> about 1.6 million. tavis: how do you grow that? >> i have a conversation. tavis: the you tell your business? >> not all my business. i don't put my family on there. well, that is not true. tavis: what do you talk about normally? will you say you were on my show? >> absolutely. tavis: i appreciate that. i will start emailing you stuff
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that i want you to tweet. >> it has become a great tool for immediate feedback for people of many things in common, not the least of which is levar burton. i tell them how i think and feel. it is a dialogue, conversation. tavis: have you always been a technology fan. >> i am a geek. tavis: so this kind of fits into who you are? >> i believe it does, absolutely. i love technology, i love advanced technology. technology has the potential as part of the solution what we're dealing with. a journalist asked me earlier today, it is a technology evil? technology is not evil, but the application can get us into trouble. i think we are on a journey where we're trying to balance our ideas and execution, our
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relationship with technology, and that serves the best and highest good as opposed to serving the narrowness of few. tavis: let me ask in closing about "the jensen project." since you have decided not to do much acting, if this were to go to series, you know what that means, going to work every day. you are open to that? >> i am ready, welcoming it. it has been a long time. these are the prime-time years. part of my new year's direction , intention was to get back on television, and here we are. tavis: we joked about this earlier, but for the purists, talking about walmart and the dvd being available the next day. >> this is an effort between walmart and proctor and gamble. they decided they really wanted to advertise on programming they
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considered consistent with the values of their companies, so they developed this movie. if people watch it, nbc will consider putting it on as a series. tavis: i'm glad you said it. the project, we have both done our jobs, the project is called "the jensen project" on nbc. levar, a pleasure to have you on the program. that is our show for tonight. thank you for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for our conversation with counterinsurgency specialist david kilcullen. that is next time. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading.
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>> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute
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